The Trojans were on their A-game this weekend, with consistently high-level performances against the Cardinal. USC quickly found its momentum in the three-match weekend, only giving up one of the 10 sets played in this series.
The Trojans drained the Cardinal 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-22) Sunday following 3-1 and 3-0 victories on Friday and Saturday.
In the series finale, USC was led by junior outside hitter Brandon Browning and redshirt junior outside hitter Clay Dickinson each had 11 kills while redshirt junior outside hitter Billy Fauntleroy posted five aces with 10 kills.
“We had a lot of conversations about how our mindsets need to go,” head coach Jeff Nygaard said. “One of the things we were not going to permit ourselves to do was to think tired or think sore or any of that stuff. We just made the mental decision as a team, and I’m really proud of the response that our team had coming into this match. They embraced our routine.”
USC held the lead for most of Sunday’s match, but Stanford inched closer and closer to closing the gap with each set. The Cardinal brought out undeniable kills to come close to a win in the third set, but when the scores began to match, the Trojans matched the Cardinal intensity. Stanford could not quite close out and USC took the final set 25-22.
“Something that we’ve seen pretty consistently is that even when we’re down, we stay confident in our ability to climb back into things,” Nygaard said. “Stanford gave us some nice push-backs, which was a great thing, and they obviously earned it. Then on our side of the net, we were able to take control of ourselves and what we were doing, and it led us to victories.”
The first two sets were more decisive victories, with USC winning the first set 25-14 and the second 25-18.
Browning, Fauntleroy and Dickinson’s offensive performances would not have been possible without the steady cornerstones that were senior libero Cole Paxson and senior setter Chris Hall. Hall contributed 35 assists and Paxson with six assists and 16 receptions.
Coming into this series with a 2-8 overall record, this weekend’s sweep could mean a turning of the tides in the upcoming games. But Nygaard said this doesn’t mean the team is going to take their foot off the gas.
“Statistically speaking, we had our best match of the entire season when you could have said that we should have been our most tired, which that’s why I say it’s a mental game,” Nygaard said. “We lit the fuse and it has to stay burning and we’re going to go in against BYU and compete and then we’re just going to keep it going for the rest of the season.”
With a 5-8 record after this weekend, USC looks to their next opponent, BYU. They face the Cougars (14-2) in Provo next Thursday and Friday.